iStock.com/monkeybusinessimagesIt's no secret that Donald Trump wants to increase defense and military spending by a lot -- $54 billion, to be exact. But with the release of the Trump administration's "America First" budget proposal last week, we got our first look at where he wants that money to come from -- right out of our children's public schools. And the results aren't pretty. Trump's proposed budget would cut $9.2 billion (that's billion, with a B) in funding from the education department. If you've been checking in on your kids' math homework, you'll be able to calculate that's 13.5 percent of its budget.
The proposed cuts target our country's most vulnerable students -- those who rely on the support of federal funding for crucial programs and services. It's tantamount to a declaration of war on public schools and what they represent.
First up on the chopping block is the Supporting Effective Instruction program, which is designed to do exactly what it sounds like: educate and support high-quality teachers, especially those who teach in schools with high needs. At a time when there's almost universal agreement on the importance of recruiting and retaining talented teachers, Trump's budget would cut more than $2 billion from teacher training programs.
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Are your kids among the 4 million children nationwide who participate in after-school programs? Trump's budget would eliminate $1.2 billion for after-school and summer programs, as well as mentoring, tutoring and other services.
Beyond providing children with a safe, enriching place to be when the school day ends, some of those programs support the country's 3 million households with children who are "food insecure" -- meaning students whose school meals may be the only meal they eat that day.
"They're supposed to help kids who don't get fed at home get fed so they do better in school," helpfully explained Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney, before saying, "We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good." (Does the idea of hungry kids sound better?)
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Is your child's school among the 11,000 nationwide who are supported by an AmeriCorps program like City Year, College Possible, Playworks, Citizen Schools, and the National College Advising Corps? Trump's budget would eliminate the program -- and its 80,000 employees -- entirely, saving a whopping .03 percent of the total federal budget in the process.
Another $193 million would be slashed from programs that are designed to support students from "disadvantaged backgrounds" (low-income families, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities) as they make the transition from middle school all the way through college.
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Other programs that would vanish (or be reduced) in the Trump budget:
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program, which gives need-based grants to college students
- Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, which supports literacy skills in students with disabilities or limited English proficiency
- Teacher Quality Partnership Program, which supports new teachers in rural areas
- Impact Aid, which supports schools on Indian reservations
- International Education, which supports exchange programs and special education services abroad
Scanning the budget proposal, you might notice that there aren't yet any proposed cuts to funding for IDEA programs for students with disabilities -- and there's an uncharacteristic bright spot: A $1 billion increase for Title I, which provides funding to schools in high-poverty areas. But don't be fooled: That $1 billion wouldn't be going to support high-needs school. Instead, it is meant to be used for "school choice." Coupled with $1.4 billion for school vouchers, $250 million for a private school-choice program, and $168 million for charter schools, it's part of a package to divert funding away from our public schools and toward private, religious, and for-profit charter schools.
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Make no mistake: Every dollar that goes toward an alternative school option -- whether it's called a school-choice voucher, a tax-credit voucher, a charter school expansion package, or some other name -- is a dollar that your child's public school is going to sorely miss. Can your school afford to subsidize Trump's vision? Probably not, and it's our kids who are going to suffer.